Isaiah 4:5-6 (MSG)
5-6 Then God will bring back the ancient pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and mark Mount Zion and everyone in it with his glorious presence, his immense, protective presence, shade from the burning sun and shelter from the driving rain.
Daniel 3 (MSG)
16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
19-23 Nebuchadnezzar, his face purple with anger, cut off Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual. He ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, bound hand and foot, fully dressed from head to toe, were pitched into the roaring fire. Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it, while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
24 Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?”
“That’s right, O king,” they said.
25 “But look!” he said. “I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods.”
I’ve been in a good mood the past few days. I just feel extra happy. I feel God’s presence and every song I sing or play on my iPod from church fills me with joy. I feel closer and closer to God. I don’t know the book this quote is from but it struck me as interesting today. When you have that spark, when are filled with the fully formed fire of the Holy Spirit, that is when you are truly unstoppable. I believe the second you accept Christ as Savior you are filled instantly with the Holy Spirit but that doesn’t mean you have its full potential right away. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but I definitely think there are periods in time where your spiritual furnace could use more fuel and times where you are at full roar. I was actually Googling this a moment ago (thanks Jesus) and found some information on the four stages of fires:
- Incipient – This first stage begins when heat, oxygen and a fuel source combine and have a chemical reaction resulting in fire. This is also known as “ignition” and is usually represented by a very small fire which often (and hopefully) goes out on its own, before the following stages are reached. Recognizing a fire in this stage provides your best chance at suppression or escape.
- Growth – The growth stage is where the structures fire load and oxygen are used as fuel for the fire. There are numerous factors affecting the growth stage including where the fire started, what combustibles are near it, ceiling height and the potential for “thermal layering”. It is during this shortest of the 4 stages when a deadly “flashover” can occur; potentially trapping, injuring or killing firefighters.
- Fully Developed – When the growth stage has reached its max and all combustible materials have been ignited, a fire is considered fully developed. This is the hottest phase of a fire and the most dangerous for anybody trapped within.
- Decay – Usually the longest stage of a fire, the decay stage is characterized a significant decrease in oxygen or fuel, putting an end to the fire. Two common dangers during this stage are first – the existence of non-flaming combustibles, which can potentially start a new fire if not fully extinguished. Second, there is the danger of a backdraft when oxygen is reintroduced to a volatile, confined space.
I think this is actually really cool when thinking about our spiritual fire. When we first come to the knowledge of Christ and are in our beginning steps of accepting Him or getting to know Him, calling that phase “incipient” is perfect. A quick Google search will define this as “(of a person) developing into a specified type or role”. In other words we are in the process of heating up. We’re in a kind of a slow-cooker. We aren’t boiling hot yet, but we’re warming up to our spiritual transformation. We aren’t fully formed. I like to think about this as if my heart (where the Holy Spirit lives) is actually a living room with a fireplace. The Holy Spirit is at home..literally…and there is a few logs resting in the fireplace. By asking Jesus into your heart you allowed the Holy Spirit to start rubbing two sticks together. A small flame has begun to burn but if you want it to really sustain the flame you’ll need to feed the fire.
This brings you to the growth stage. Every time you read the Bible, you add more fuel to the fire. Every time you praise God with your breath, you add more oxygen to the fire. Every time you go to Church, you are encouraged and add more fuel to the fire. Even though this is the shortest stage according to this blog, it is also the most dangerous which makes sense. Either you keep moving forward or you loose that initial ignition that sparked your interest in God. The cool thing is there is something called a “flashover”. I think in spiritual terms this is being as a crossroads. You can take the easy way or the hard way. You can choose Jesus or you can turn back to your old life. You can lean into God more than you have ever before, or you can stay in your comfort zone. When flashover occurs, everything combustible erupts in fire and temperature reaches its maximum. It’s sink or swim. This is usually when people question their walk with God and think about if the journey is worth it. Or feel alone in their current struggle. Or feel overwhelmed and hopeless. You can choose the perspective of that you are trapped in this fire and can’t escape or you can choose the Daniel 3 option which is that you will be unharmed in the fire and that the protection of God is all around you.
The fully developed stage is fairly self-explanatory. You are at the peak of danger. The fire is at it’s hottest. Everything around you is up in flames. Similar to the growth stage you are in danger now. The gauge is fully turned up. There is no turning back.
Finally there is decay. You either have survived a fire with God and therefore have become stronger and more secure with Him because of it. Or you are dying out. You went the other way. You saw the smoke and sparks coming and ran off in the opposite direction. The good news is whether you survived the fire or ran from it, that in the decay there is a second chance. You are either ready for round 2, or you are willing to endure the fire for the first time, knowing there is more to be learned, more trust to be gained, more strength to be had.
I feel like even though I feel like I am on a fully developed high…there is always a possibility that life could tame the flames. It’s up to me whether I want to let the enemy extinguish it, or to let what seems to be dry spells flicker on, and not be worried because the Holy Spirit can keep me aflame. Things are not always as dead as they seem. God desires to always fill us with “His glorious presence”. We need to be confident no matter what our circumstances that this is always our portion. We are always able to be reignited through His word, His people, and His presence. And on top of that, people who are dying down in Church, or those of us who have yet to meet God are relying on our flame. They need a beacon of hope in the darkness. Jesus said in John 8 (ESV):
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
So be encouraged today. Whether you are riding a high or trying to keep your fire ablaze you always have access to His fire which will fuel you at whatever stage.